The Vanishing American Adult (Part II) - Introduction
Have any of you ever heard of the term “adulting”? According to the Oxford dictionary, it is “The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks. 'It feels really good to take a step back from adulting and have someone else cook dinner for me.’ ” There are number of memes and even books about this because, for a growing number of young Americans, acting like a grown-up is a kind of role-playing that can be thought of as a joke.
In the past there was clarity about what coming of age into adulthood meant. This is no longer the case. Ours is now a nation of both delayed grown-ups and adult children who create words to mock the idea that we can ever become responsible, civic-minded leaders.
According to Senator Ben Sasse, our entire nation is in the midst of a collective coming-of-age crisis without parallel in our history as America is becoming a place of perpetual adolescence. Our kids simply don't know what an adult is anymore—or how to become one. Many don't see a reason even to try. Perhaps more problematic, the older generations have forgotten that we need to make an effort ourselves to teach them.
This would be a big problem in any society, but it is even more significant for us given the fact that we live in a republic. Our nation is premised on the idea that the government exists not to define and secure the good, the true, and the beautiful, but rather to maintain a framework for ordered liberty so that free people can pursue their happiness in the diverse ways that they see fit.
This is all from the introduction to Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. Over the next three weeks I will write about the next three chapters in Sasse’s book. You won’t need to read along in his book to understand these messages, but you are obviously welcome to do so.
Chapters 1-3 discuss the problem of passivity that is becoming more and more apparent in our young people. After these three messages I will spend the next five weeks discussing five concrete steps that Sasse recommends we as parents take with our children to help them mature, things like breaking the monopoly of peer groups and connecting them with people of different ages, encouraging our kids to embrace hard work and consume less, as well as to read well and read more and travel.
In these messages I am not going to give you my opinions, but rather I’m going to do my best to summarize and pass on the main ideas of Ben Sasse’s book. That being said, please don’t assume that I endorse everything in these messages. There are places wherein I disagree with Senator Sasse, but I’m not going to clog up these messages with my commentary.
Finally, as many of you know, Ben Sasse is a Republican. He is generally ranked as one of the more conservative members of Congress and he has been one of the more outspoken opponents of President Trump. Nonetheless, while Senator Sasse has a number of very strong political opinions, this is not a book about politics; it is not even a book about policy. Senator Sasse believes that the key to fixing our politics is to fix the underlying factors that drive our politics, one of which is the way we raise our kids. It is to that end that he has written this book.
Hopefully you find these messages edifying and helpful.